Lately I’ve been on a cleaning crusade. Time to clip pictures from old magazines — recipes, too — and toss those past issues away. Time to go through the closets, put summer clothes away, and get ready for winter. Time to get ready for holiday celebrations with family and friends.
This holiday housecleaning also means tackling the mess around my art area — which has taken over a lot of our home. My easel, paints, and brushes reside in a corner of the kitchen, and as part of our recent straighten up and organize campaign, my dear husband replaced all the bulbs in the ceiling fixture. Let there be light… again! Yes, several bulbs were burned out, I could hardly distinguish brown from purple, and it’s little wonder I was feeling a bit discouraged with my painting efforts.
One of the biggest chores I face now as an artist is figuring out what to do with all the many, many canvases sitting around. My husband once remarked, “You’re an artist. Our walls should be filled with paintings.” I scoffed at the idea at first, but gradually as I complete more successful paintings — meaning ones that I like — many are being framed and hung on our walls. Others are being framed and put on display elsewhere throughout our community and surrounding towns. It’s still all a bit hard to believe, but I have paintings on display at community centers, art studios, banks, and health care facilities. Oh, my! How did this happen? Me? With paintings on display? I still shake my head in wonder at the thought.
But, as I so often do, I digress. So back to my little makeshift art studio and my efforts to sort through paintings. Good ones go on our walls or off for display. No difficult decisions there. The challenge comes, however, with all the rest of those canvases I’ve painted, the not so good ones. A lot of those not so good paintings still have memories attached, or they show promise of improvement. I can look at those not so good works of art and see potential. Do I really want to get rid of them?
It’s been a process of looking at each canvas and asking, “Do I keep this one?”
The answer has sometimes been “Yes, I like this. It might not be great, but it’s still one I want to keep.” Many of my earliest paintings are in this category, like the “Winter Scene” I painted in December, 2016, about two months after I first tried oils.
Other times, the answer is a resounding “No! Cover that up, and I’ll try something new with the canvas.” Paintings in this category and usually ones I’ve practiced with a bit, especially ones where I’ve attempted to add a building. The canvas served its purpose, I’ve learned from the experience, now it’s time to scrape away all that I can, cover it up with a solid color, and find a new use for the old canvas panel. That will be the fate of this Little Cabin in the Woods panting.
The most difficult decisions come when the answer is “Maybe. The painting isn’t good, but for some reason I’m attached to it. I can’t imagine painting over it.” I feel that way about Looking Toward the Lake — my first plein air painting experience. I’ll hold on to it for the memories. For now, at least. Maybe another time I’ll be ready to let it go.
Recently, I discovered a new answer to the “Should I keep it?” question. I picked up one canvas, furrowed my brow a bit and scratched my head in puzzlement. “What the…?”
Here’s the painting, and I vaguely remember painting it:
It is, obviously, another of the summer scenes I enjoy painting. I have a feeling I was learning about mixing greens and creating variations in the grassy area. But what are all those lines I’ve drawn on the painting? Did I draw those lines before I painted? Or afterward? Did I intend to use those lines as guides, going back and adding more lights and shadows? Some lines were apparently meant to be tree trunks. Others…? I have no idea. And is that — maybe — a fence at the left? Again, I have no idea.
It was fun to find this painting lurking among my old canvases, fun to wonder what it was I intended to do with the scene, fun to think about mixing those colors, and most of all fun to realize that I really like a lot about this picture. I don’t know what all those lines were all about, but I think I’ll keep this painting around for a while.
Now, as we enter the holiday season, best wishes to everyone! And, if you’re like me and are trying to get ready for all the festivities, happy housecleaning, too!